Beamed Up

Photography courtesy of
Jennifer Haberman

On Aug. 26, a ceremonial beam was raised for the West Wing addition to Alan Magee Scaife Hall.

The need for the expansion has been clear, said Chancellor Patrick Gallagher, who spoke at a beam-raising ceremony. “We’re building a world-class facility to match our world-class medical school. It’s something we owed the medical students.”

The addition is expected to open in 2022. In the fall of 2023, a new curriculum will launch, and the building will serve as a platform for educational approaches that include more active learning and frequent assessment, novel use of technology to improve retention, better integration and room for team-building and collaboration. Teaching, relaxation and study spaces in the West Wing will incorporate lots of natural light. See a list of features below.

“This is really about the future of Pitt Health Sciences,” said Anantha Shekhar, senior vice chancellor for the health sciences and John and Gertrude Petersen Dean, School of Medicine. “It is a beacon of our commitment to the health sciences.”

As part of the August ceremony, students presented items that speak to their experiences at Pitt for a time capsule. Among those: a white coat signed by students in their first year, a photo of second-year students in a Zoom call, a bottle of Purell hand sanitizer from third-years, a poem by a fourth-year med student and a stuffed-pet-style microbe antibody from graduate students.

West Wing Features

- a 600-person capacity auditorium, the lower half of which has moveable seating for multipurpose use
- small group spaces that can shift to support more case-based and team-based educational approaches
- a gross anatomy lab that combines the benefits of traditional cadaveric dissection with a facility for augmented/virtual reality
- a testing room for written and computer-based assessments, allowing everyone to test concurrently, reducing proctoring needs and adding convenience for learners, staff and faculty
- multipurpose spaces on every floor
- open areas for study, group work or small conversations
- fireplace
- café offering indoor and outdoor seating
- an increased number of larger lockers and changing
rooms for students
- student lounges
- private study spaces
- library classrooms
- a designated printer/copier area allowing 24-hour
student access
- windows! 


Included in the time capsule for the West Wing (see above) was this poem, by Kevin Oommen (Class of 2022), which he performed originally for the talent section of the 2019 Mr. Pitt Med pageant.

Pitt Med Time Capsule

To the future class of 2052, I salute you
For choosing the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine

I know you live in the future with fancy drugs and novel cures
But let me tell you a story from the past that’s sure to allure
See we lived in a simpler time, the year was 2-0-1-8
In your modern and improved Scaife Hall, you can’t relate

I was up on the fifth floor just to study a tad bit
In one of the classrooms up there I did dare sit
It wasn’t before long, before the birdy sang its song
In a threatening email to my inbox saying I didn’t belong

See the 5th floor was reserved for those of year two
Any logical explanation I could simply not construe
See we lived in a simple time, where study rooms were divine
And with this revelation I eventually did resign

Alas, onward down to the fourth floor
The walk of shame down the stairs made my poor heart sore
At least I had a home on this lower level
But just as I thought I was about to get settled

I went from door to door, but no room was free
When would I get to study? When I was an MS3?
I peeked through the window to see who could be inside
It was none other than the Tsinghua Scholars, further knocking my pride

It appeared today I would not be able to study
But all this walking around had made me hungry
I might as well take a break and go to a lunch talk
There was one given by the Dean, so it was sure to rock

He was giving a presentation about his new zebrafish lab
If there was one thing for certain, this would not be drab
But before I tell you all about the NIH funding
We will need to stop so I can tell you something

See the real reason I was there was because
    the dean had a friend
Who would cook us delicious pizzas with no end
His last name was John, His first name
   was Papa
Every time I took a bite it felt like an
   Italian opera

One slice, two slice, three slice, four
Over the hour I kept wanting more and more
But eventually the talk ended and the slices were through
By now I needed to study, of this I certainly knew

So to the Class of 2052, why do I share this with you?
To tell the tales of yonder, of what we had to pull through
So while you sit in your fancy building with all of your windows
Take a minute to think about the ones who came before

—Kevin Oommen



Student poet Kevin Oommen explains the insider content:

- In the 2018-2019 academic year, there was contention between the first- and second- year medical students and study spaces. An unwritten rule said that the fourth floor of Alan Magee Scaife Hall was for first years to study, and the newly renovated fifth floor was for second-year
students, leading to some friendly animosity between our classes. (All in good spirits!)

- Oftentimes the fourth-floor rooms were booked with other groups in the school, such as the Tsinghua Scholars (medical students from China who would come to Pitt Med for a mentored two-year biomedical research training program). That left medical students looking for study
spaces elsewhere in Scaife.

- The then-dean of the medical school was Arthur Levine, a prolific researcher enthusiastic about zebrafish research; he gave long presentations to the medical students. He was proud of the impressive level of National Institutes of Health funding at Pitt and would bring it up often during his talks with the medical students.

- Whenever there was a school-sponsored lunch talk, it was always accompanied by one food and one food only: pizza from Papa John’s. People got so sick of eating the stuff that student groups would host their lunch talks by advertising their food as NOT PIZZA.

- The old Scaife Hall did not have many windows. Hopefully, the Scaife Hall of the future will have many windows!